The beleaguered UK state-funded broadcaster, the BBC, is facing the prospect of blank screens as employees vote for strike action.

Members of three trades unions, representing journalists and technical staff, have decided overwhelmingly to take action over the corporation's plans to axe around 3,800 jobs across all disciplines.

The cuts are being made, says BBC director general Mark Thompson, to free up £355 million ($665.09m; €519.48m) of licence-payers' money for new, improved programming.

The walk-out is likely to affect key sports events, such as the soccer cup final later this month, together with news programmes and some popular dramas.

Union chiefs have warned their aim is to "shut live programming down, leading to blank screens and dead air".
They want Thompson to agree he will make no compulsory redundancies, while ensuring that employees who are transferred to the private sector will receive BBC terms and conditions.

But BBC bosses have so far shown little sign of capitulation, insisting the savings must be made to ensure continuing public funding and accusing the unions of refusing to negotiate.

  • Meanwhile the broadcaster is set to act on criticism of its coverage of matters European.

    A special panel, commissioned by the corporation's board of governors earlier this year, found the BBC guilty of sparse, uninformative coverage of European Union news and affairs.

    It also said there was "cultural and unintentional bias" in the way news was reported from the EU [WAMN: 31-Jan-05].

    The corporation has now promised better training to improve journalists' knowledge of EU issues and institutions and pledges it will offer more "sophisticated" coverage.

    But it has has rejected the report's proposal that pro- and anti-European pressure groups should have more say in which contributors appear on news programmes to discuss EU issues, insisting it should never cede editorial control to outside organisations.

    Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff